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Alabama Considers Revising Yoga Ban

April 17th, 2020

Since 1993, the state of Alabama has maintained a yoga ban in public schools, arguing it is a "Hindu philosophy" and a "method of religious training."
Since 1993, the state of Alabama has maintained a yoga ban in public schools, arguing it is a “Hindu philosophy” and a “method of religious training.”

For more than a quarter-century, the state of Alabama banned yoga as a “Hindu philosophy” and a “method of religious training.” Lawmakers in Alabama, however, are looking to change this approach. This article reviews the yoga ban in the state of Alabama as well as the proposed changes

The Yoga Ban in Alabama

In 1993, Alabama passed a law prohibiting yoga in public schools. Other practices like “guided imagery” and “meditation” were also prohibited under this law, which banned “hypnosis and dissociative mental states.” This regulation is still actively enforced in Alabama. In January 2019, a yoga program was introduced into Alabama but quickly canceled after school officials learned about the 1993 yoga ban.

The Proposed Change

A Democratic state representative from Alabama has proposed a bill that passed in the state’s Education Policy Committee. If signed into law, the bill would allow school districts in Alabama to offer yoga as an elective class. More specifically, the measure states that all instruction in yoga should be limited exclusively to “poses, exercises, and stretching techniques.” Each of the techniques taught in these Alabama yoga classes will also be given “exclusively English descriptive names.” The measure also prohibits chanting, mantras, mudras, the use of mandalas, and namaste greetings. Even if the bill is passed and the yoga ban lifted, each school would decide whether or not to offer yoga as part of its curriculum.

Support for the Bill

The bill’s sponsor has expressed disbelief that the yoga ban even existed because the practice of yoga is common among both athletes and ordinary people who go to the gym on a routine basis. The sponsor, who is a former college and professional football player, also claims that even if people do not work out, yoga is still an excellent way to practice posture and that many people are aware of yoga even if they do not practice yoga. The bill’s sponsor also argues that the widespread appeal of yoga will also help to get the bill passed.

Criticism of the Proposed Change

Conservative religious groups are likely to oppose lifting the 1993 yoga ban. The executive director of the Christian advocacy group, Alabama Citizens Action Program, already stated that the issue is the Hindu aspects of yoga practice, and that by allowing yoga into Alabama’s public schools, the state is failing to recognize the required separation between church and state. While these religious groups have opposed the bill, it appears to have some support by Republican legislators, who recognize the western version of yoga as a routine part of their daily lives.

Documenting School and Religion Issues

While many of the laws addressing the relationship between church and state originated in the United States, each year there are various cases that test existing laws. Each month, the Universal Life Church’s blog focuses on documenting the most noteworthy of these issues. Our blog focuses on documenting these issues in a way that fairly examines both sides of each argument.

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